Friday, February 17, 2012

Choose Life

The audio is a Republican "pro-life legislator" explaining his vote for marriage equality:

The Real Solution

When it comes to Greece it's time to think big:


These two posts (the second via) do a nice job of making clear how little David Brooks knows about the ubiquity of athletes as aggressive Christians. There something else that bothers me. Brooks goes on about how
[f]or many religious teachers, humility is the primary virtue.
And he seems to think that Jeremy Lin is trying to be authentically humble and live for God. Humility in action:

The fact of the matter is that no athlete is living for god or asking themselves What Would Jesus Do because if they did they would listen to Jesus and follow his advice for the riches of the world:
21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
 It's just not that hard. Take care of the poor and work to create a world in that cares for the poor and the downtrodden regardless that's WJWD.

Reality Drives Reputation

I mentioned the other day that arguments that selfish multimillionaires acting like selfish multimillionaires isn't an example of "reputation" but rather of the reality that the very rich don't think like the rest of us. From Think  Progress comes evidence that a CNN poll indicates that 65% of Americans think that robotic sociopath Mitt Romney "favors the rich." This is another example of people knowing how the world works not that multimillionaire and robotic sociopath Mitt Romney has a "reputation" for "favoring the rich." It might even be, lord let's hope so, evidence that neoliberalism is losing its hold on the American political imagination.

Speaking of the latter point, over to Crooked Timber, there is post that offers a create your own adventure text on the Greek crisis. Here is it with hyperlinks.  The thing that struck me about the exercise is the inherent technocratisme  and the refusal to think about some non-neoliberal solution(s) to the problem  and the extent to which the whole discussion leaves the Greeks as citizens out of the discussion.  There are all manner of stories of riots, mayhem, theft, and exodus coming out of Greece. Here's a sort of sampler. Any solution to the problem that doesn't take seriously the plight of the average Greek isn't a solution; it's a means of punishing Greeks for neoliberalism's crimes.


Below are links to the two part Graeber interview. Here, however, is Mark Twain's rejection of transcribed interviews:

In a nutshell, his view was that the transcription of his was "like most interviews, pure twaddle and valueless."

Thursday, February 16, 2012


John Cassidy exposes the fundamental nature of privilege among the 1%. In a stupid and pointless exercise he offers various candidates for the presidency of the World Bank and the reasons why they would be or not be the next. When writing about Timothy Geitner, the presumptive favorite, Cassidy "argues" that
[h]aving already said he is leaving the Obama Administration after the election, he needs a new job. His father worked for the Ford Foundation in Asia, so he is familiar with foreign countries and development issues.
What better reasons could you ask for? He needs a job and his father was  a big deal. News flash, knowledge is not inheritable and Geitner doesn't need a job. There is no understanding here that the WB pursues a narrow neoliberal agenda that has hamstrung economic recovery and the possibility of living a decent life. No understanding that the conventional ideas shared by the vast horde of neoliberal technocrats not only led to the current mess but that it is curtailing meaningful reform and, oddly enough, restraining any attempt to get the old version of winner take all capitalism wheezing its way forward.

This is the kind of thing that makes reasonable people despair of our future. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


This is the kind of interspecies rom-com future from which brave truth telling nut case Rick Santorum is trying to save us:


The Boston Review has posted the first of a two part interview with David Graeber on the his Debt. He is a smart guy and the interview is worth reading.

Part two is up.

You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party

Rick Santorum on contraception;
One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”
It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.
Again, I know most Presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These how profound impact on the health of our society.
He's nuts and so are they. Outside of people who  have had sex with Santorum and my great aunt Jane is there anyone who thinks that in the "sexual realm," oh crumulent phrase, sex is for the making of babies and naught else? Where, one wonders, does this thou shalt not come from? 

Is Santorum actually running to rid the world of pleasure? What next all food eaten for reasons other than the satisfaction of immediate bodily needs is outlawed as both an affront to God and on public policy grounds. He might be the only president brave enough to shed light on the specific and general dangers of pleasure and its role in the ending American exceptionalism, which is Santorum's mind seems to mean free to do everything but enjoy yourself.

Authentically Self Fashioned

Over to the Crooked Timber there is a longish post on Mitt Romney and the fallacy of authenticity. The general idea is that authenticity isn't a real thing and that Romney doesn't have it in spades. Or so I read it. I think the mistake here is to conflate the well-fashioned self with some notion of a naturally occurring self.  The idea of self fashioning comes from Stephen Greenblatt and the democratization of the idea lies at the heart of Natalie Zemon Davis' Return of Martin Guerre.

As I understand self fashioning, it is a process of creating and recreating one's self in one's ideal likeness and image. Any individual can become what he or she wants to be through a process of polishing. There are, it seems to me, limits to this process. But the limits are broad. For all of us the problem inherent to self fashioning is to not transcend our limits. We all know someone, and it might be us, who tried to become someone they weren't and how foolish they looked.

Romney's self fashioning fails because he isn't. Not that he isn't a Tea Party Republican or secretly a George Romney Republican yearning to be free but rather because he has no idea what he is, how he should be, or what the limits to his becoming are. He is a mirror in search of a gaze.

One reason that people have such a hard time with the idea of Romney as balloon or ungazed mirror is that his Father was so clearly a man who created him self as a principled defender of core American values. The fact that the Romney the elder was also a filthy rich man whose various careers all revolved around improving the lot of business and industry is eclipsed, so it seems, by his refusal to become part of the Goldwater wing of the Republican Party. At leas Romney the elder latched on a set of principles and used them to polish his political concerns and, even better, the values he selected weren't the deranged neoliberal values of ruining life for the rest of us.

Romney the younger's failure at self fashioning is the reason he speaks in that staccato rambling style. He is in a constant state of panic because he has no idea how to behave or what to say. His whole life has been lived in tightly controlled circumstances in which institutions and expectations created his image. He used to be like well-directed actor working from a brilliantly written screen play whose privilege assured him of success. Now the script is missing, the context is the free flowing world of argument in front of multiple and multifarious audiences and the expectations are unclear.  To succeed as a politician Romney needs to produce something that people want; somehthing he has no idea how accomplish. He needs to be told what to do.

A slightly different version of the argument:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Franz Kafka writes a "love" letter, according to The Atlantic:
Last night I dreamed about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember, all I know is that we kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me. Finally you somehow caught fire.
Remembering that one extinguished fire with clothing, I took an old coat and beat you with it.
But again the transmutations began and it went so far that you were no longer even there, instead it was I who was on fire and it was also I who beat the fire with the coat.
But the beating didn’t help and it only confirmed my old fear that such things can’t extinguish a fire.
In the meantime, however, the fire brigade arrived and somehow you were saved.
But you were different from before, spectral, as though drawn with chalk against the dark, and you fell, lifeless or perhaps having fainted from joy at having been saved, into my arms.
But here too the uncertainty of trans mutability entered, perhaps it was I who fell into someone’s arms.
Assuming, of course, it is a love letter, it may be the single greatest love letter ever written in that it makes little in the way of overt sense and its meaning rests almost entirely on the reader's response, which suggests that love, much like beauty, is the the eye of the beholder.

Intertubes as Arcade

People can babble on about the interwebs death and its hurly burly Appolonian simulacrum we now zombie like inhabit. But they lie, from a "review" of Red Dawn:
One of the Democrat pussy boys is wearing a wheat headdress for some sort fertility rite.  No, wait, he’s spying.  They’re putting the Americans to work, digging graves for dead Russkies.  Kind of a Commie WPA.  The ‘Mericans will not be defeated and start screaming a loud, off-key rendition of “America the Beautiful” and won’t stop until the Russkies are forced to shoot them to stop the awful noise.  I’m grateful to the Russkies.

The Idiocy is Metastasizing

George Packer joins in the refusal to accept that a radically unequal society with fewer chances for social mobility leads to people being  brutalized and giving up:
Is it disappearing jobs, or disappearing values? This isn’t an analytical choice I find very useful. Jobs and values are intertwined: when one starts to go, the other is likely to go with it, and the circle becomes truly vicious. A textile factory moves south of the border, and a town loses its mainstay of employment. Former textile workers scurry to find fast-food and retail positions. The move from blue-collar to service work is brutal, and over time some employees lose the will to stick it out in a hateful job. Their children do even worse. Soon enough there are two or three generations of one family on government help, and kids grow up without a model of the work ethic. When a technology plant opens in the area (with a fifth the number of jobs as the textile factory), few locals are remotely qualified to work there. It’s a dismally familiar story—but is it a story of jobs or values? The obvious answer is both, which is why no one’s five-point solutions or three-word slogan is convincing.
Read the story over: Meaningful jobs disappear and society fall apart when someone realizes that land is cheap and builds a factory that is insufficient for the reserve labor army in any event the social damage done by the narrow-minded seeking after profit, aka outsourcing or globalization, means that no one is "able" to work there. See he concludes, all evidence from his hypothetical to the contrary, its the loss of values that makes the louts unemployable not the redirection of profit from those workers to Mitt Romney and the rest of the riches.

I understand there is must be huge degree of guilt associated with success in a rigged system and I understand that one way around the guilt is a comfortable story of the self-imposed immorality of the losers causing their loserdom.  But really, you think they'd be better at telling this twice told tale.

Who Says Bankers Are Morons?

Irmgard Greiner in Germany is who. She was sold a investment by her bank that sequestered a portion of her wealth for 20 years. She would 108 years old when her money became available. Despite an ombudsman's ruling against the bank, it refuses to disgorge her money. As a result of its refusal to give her 40K euros back, the bank lost 500k euros in accounts and investments plus control over the money, as -- I assume -- executor after she dies.  Morons like these caused the economic collapse. Idiots like David Brooks think its the fault of poors who refuse to be "bourgeois" and that all we need is some damned disciplining of the poors by the riches and all will be well. 

If The Facts Are Against You, Lie

David Brooks tells lies in order to blame the poor for the lack of viable jobs. He insists that
In the half-century between 1962 and the present, America has become more prosperous, peaceful and fair, but the social fabric has deteriorated. Social trust has plummeted. Society has segmented. The share of Americans born out of wedlock is now at 40 percent and rising.
It's the "fair" and the prosperity that are doing a lot of the work in his overarching argument that are clearly lies. Fewer people have more of the wealth and capture more of the income now than ever before. That means that the prosperity created is divided with out regard to fairness. Indeed, we know that institutions dedicated to creating opportunity for the poors have been consistently underfunded by twits like David Brooks.

He concludes with the idea that the way forward
requires bourgeois paternalism: Building organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly rather than irresponsibly and, yes, sometimes using government to do so.
Social repair requires sociological thinking. The depressing lesson of the last few weeks is that the public debate is dominated by people who stopped thinking in 1975.
By those who have stopped thinking, he means "liberals" who reject the notion that the decline in traditional morals led to the creation of an underclass. Oddly enough, his position is the same one proposed by the rich in the 19th century in response to the social question. He has, in other words, stopped thinking in 1875.

It's clear that the current economic system doesn't work and everyday see an increase in its dysfunction. Brooks and his fellow travelers blame the victims of the neoliberal economic order while useful idiots insist that an ever larger number of poors can find wealth and satisfaction serving the ever decreasing number but ever wealthier plutocrats.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Religious Freedom

Catholic bishops insist that no one can be forced to provide contraceptives or abortions. Indeed, they prefer a regime that makes both illegal and impossible. And any number of people argue that this rule is, in fact, a violation of religious freedom. How, then, do we justify denying peyote, polygamy, polyandry, and related ect to those religions that deem one, all, or yet even more to be god's or gods' decree?


Because he is a silly yet horrid little man, Ross Douthat recently wrote, in the course of an incoherent defense of Charles Murray, that
[e]ven if liberals get the higher tax rates on the rich they so ardently desire, the money won’t be adequate to finance our existing entitlements, let alone a New Deal 2.0.
The fact is that he has no facts but rather an assertion. Leaving aside the long-term changes in wealth and wages that would result from a different tax regime and new method of wage allocation, right now the world looks like this:

20 % hold 85% of the wealth. Take that away andgive it to the state to fund an actually existing system in which talent, luck, and hard work move us forward instead of a world in which the sons and daughters of the 20%ers start out on third base, with slightly longer lead-offs based on how obscenely rich their parents were, and things would be much better than they are.

Instead the two political parties argue about how much more money the super rich ought to have and to what extent society ought to stop funding educational institutions and other means of creating a just society.

Technocratisme Destroys the World

Greece is technically a democracy in which the legislators do their utmost to represent their constituents views and legislators understanding of their constituents best interests. The recent austerity measures passed by the Greek Parliament do neither. What is especially troubling, to me in any event, was the decision by party leader in Greece to expel legislators who voted no. The austerity measures are not be seen as obviously right and principled disagreement is not only possible but necessary if democracy is to thrive in the face of technocratisme and neoliberalism run amok.

Little Journals

It's a sad fact of life that small literary journals, which I never read, are disappearing like dodos and passenger pigeons. If you want to read some of the more famous and now extinct versions from a period of literary experimentation that helped to shape the contemporary intellectual landscape go here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Your Privilege is Showing

I tried to read Andrew Hacker's review of several of the new books on inequality. However, I gave up when I read his assertion that
[e]ntry to the top 1 percent now comes with $347,421, which I’d simply call comfortably off.
Given that this works out to 38k or so a month, this may well be the single dumbest thing ever published in the NYRB. According to this website Illinois has the highest starting teacher salary and it is 37,500. His notion of "comfortably off" exposes his blindness to what actually existing work-class American's confront.

The difficulty in having an effective conversations about inequality and how to fix it, isn't just Andrew Charles Murray, Megan McArdle, and Matthew Yeglesias it is also Andrew Hacker and his fellow well-meaning "liberals."

Happy Families

Frank Zappa and his parents:

And you thought your parents and/or children didn't understand you, what do think Christmas was like at the Zappa household?